Grimsby Town produced a huge Emirates FA Cup shock as they beat Premier League Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium to reach the quarter-finals on one of the great nights in the long history of the club.
Roared on by a magnificent travelling support numbering more than 4,000 on the south coast, the Mariners withstood early pressure before grabbing the advantage just before half-time when Gavan Holohan scored from the penalty spot after a handball was spotted by the video assistant referee.
Those fans, many waving Harry Haddocks, were then sent into dreamland soon after the interval when the lead was doubled. Again, it was Holohan who struck from the spot, this time after Danilo Orsi was fouled.
Duje Calets-Car pulled a goal back to set up a nervous finish and substitute Theo Walcott saw a goal ruled out for offside but Town defended superbly to keep their hosts at bay and incredibly, take their place in the last eight of the competition.
One change was made to the Grimsby starting XI following Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two draw with Leyton Orient, with Orsi replacing the cup-tied George Lloyd in attack.
Goalkeeper Max Crocombe was protected by a back three of Michee Efete, Luke Waterfall and Niall Maher, with Josh Emmanuel and Anthony Glennon in the wing-back positions. Holohan, Alex Hunt and Harry Clifton were the midfielders, with John McAtee supporting Orsi up front.
There was a return to the matchday squad for Otis Khan as he took a place on the bench, where he was joined by Ollie Battersby, Shaun Pearson, Bryn Morris, Tom Dickson-Peters, Danny Amos, Andy Smith, Ryan Taylor and Evan Khouri.
New Southampton manager Ruben Selles made nine changes to his line-up following the weekend Premier League defeat by fellow strugglers Leeds United, with only Romain Perraud and Romeo Lavia remaining from that team. Kyle Walker-Peters was given the captain’s armband, with regular skipper James Ward-Prowse kept in reserve among the substitutes.
A cross from Adam Armstrong sailed out for a goal kick as the hosts launched their opening attack, then the game’s first corner led to Mirslav Orsic heading harmlessly at Crocombe.
The keeper was called into action to block a shot from Sekou Mara, with the offside flag only going up against the attacker when the ball dropped out of play.
Walker-Peters was getting some joy down the right in the early stages and he won a corner on 10 minutes. Orsic’s ball from the flag was flicked on before being cleared.
Armstrong sent a header through to Crocombe from a Moussa Djenepo cross as the home side continued to probe.
Efete went down under a challenge inside the penalty area as the Mariners launched their first attack of note on 13 minutes but the referee waved play on, then Orsi looked for McAtee as they went forward again but the attacker was unable to get the ball under control.
The home side thought they had taken the lead on 18 minutes when Mara beat Crocombe after a pull-back from Djenepo but another late offside flag came to the visitors’ rescue and the goal was ruled out.
McAtee sent a cross from the right out for a goal kick after a good run by Efete, before Orsic curled a shot wide of the far post at the other end after Holohan had lost possession in midfield.
A weak diving header from Carlos Alcoraz was dealt with by Waterfall, before Orsi won a free kick when he was brought down by defender Lyanco.
Town had grown into the game after Southampton dominated the opening stages and a Maher long throw on 28 minutes gave them an opportunity to cause some problems of their own. Lyanco hooked the ball clear after it had been headed on.
Crocombe got down to make a comfortable stop from Mara’s low, 20-yard effort on the half-hour and the keeper then came off his line to deny Armstrong as the home side kept looking for a way to break the deadlock.
Hunt was shown the first yellow card on 32 minutes for a late challenge on Lavia, before a low cross from Efete was cleared after an overlapping run down the right.
Walker-Peters stayed down with an injury on 36 minutes but the right-back eventually got back to his feet after Emmanuel put the ball out of play.
The referee remained unmoved when Djenepo went down easily in the box under a challenge from Maher as the hosts kept attacking.
Then came the moment the travelling Town fans had hoped to see, as the clock reached 45 minutes. Clifton met a low ball from Emmanuel on the right after it deflected off Lyanco, although home keeper Alex McCarthy came out to make the block. But a VAR check was signalled and after replays showed the ball hit the defender’s arm, the referee awarded a penalty. HOLOHAN stepped up to calmly send McCarthy the wrong way from the spot and put the Mariners ahead.
Four added minutes were played at the end of the first half and Southampton won a corner on their left in the last of them. Orsic sent the ball in from the flag but Mara fired tamely over the bar in front of the delighted away end.
That proved to be the last opportunity for the home side to get themselves level before the break and as the half-time whistle blew, the Mariners stood just 45 minutes from a place in the last eight.
No changes were made before the restart and an early attempt by Djenepo was deflected into the side-netting for a corner after he had cut inside from the right. McAtee was first to Perraud’s ball from the flag and Armstrong headed the loose ball at Crocombe.
Town were in dreamland two minutes in when they were awarded a second penalty after Orsi was dragged down by Caleta-Car. The defender was booked and after the decision was confirmed, HOLOHAN again stepped up to beat McCarthy and make it 2-0, this time in front of the massed ranks of travelling fans.
Perraud lifted a shot well over the bar as the hosts went in search of a way back into the contest, before Djenepo went down inside the box under minimal contact from Clifton but the referee allowed play to continue.
Armstrong won a corner on the home left on 57 minutes but it did not lead to a chance in front of goal.
The Premier League side looked to their bench for the first time just before the hour, sending Ward-Prowse and Samuel Edozie on for Mara and Orsic in a bid to change the game in their favour.
Glennon put in a good block to get a low Edozie cross away for a corner but Waterfall rose majestically to head the flag-kick clear.
A cross from Emmanuel at the other end proved just too high for McAtee, before Hunt got in the way of a drive from Perraud.
A good challenge by Emmanuel stopped Djenepo at the expense of another home corner but this time, they made it count as Ward-Prowse’s ball from the flag was met by the unmarked CALETA-CAR, who volleyed home at the far post.
Taylor replaced Orsi in Town’s first change, before Joe Aribo and Walcott were sent on in place of Armstrong and Mara for the hosts.
Clifton won a throw-in after a run down the right on 69 minutes and Maher’s throw broke for Hunt but his strike was blocked.
Waterfall then slid in to stop Walcott at the other end and a corner soon followed as the hosts ramped up the pressure. This time, the whistle blew for a free kick when Waterfall was fouled as he headed the flag-kick clear.
Another corner came when a Walker-Peters cross was intercepted by Waterfall but again, the big centre-back got to the ball from the flag first.
Khan replaced Clifton and Morris was sent on in place of Hunt with 18 minutes to go and McAtee had a chance to shoot from 20 yards soon afterwards but saw his attempt saved by McCarthy in the home goal.
A push by Morris on Edozie brought a free kick for Southampton on their right but Ward-Prowse’s delivery was headed clear.
Another home corner was dealt with as Town continued to stand up to the pressure and they could have made it 3-1 on the break when McAtee won the ball on the halfway line and raced clear through the middle. Unfortunately though, he could not apply a finish as McCarthy came out to make a vital block.
The hosts thought they were back on level terms with 11 minutes remaining, as a free kick into the Town box was met by Walcott and he turned before firing past Crocombe. Again though, VAR was the Mariners’ friend and the goal was correctly ruled out for offside against the former Arsenal man.
Khouri came on for McAtee in Town’s fourth change, with a place in the sixth round now agonisingly close.
Morris was penalised for bringing down Edozie on 83 minutes but the resulting free kick came to nothing as the ball went through to Crocombe.
Dom Ballard came on for Djenepo in Southampton’s latest change with four minutes to go, before Caleta-Car fired well over the bar from 25 yards as Town’s lead remained intact.
The fourth official signalled six additional minutes to be played at the end of the game and Walker-Peters had a chance to grab an equaliser when he cut in from the right but to the relief of the Mariners, his shot drifted wide of the far post.
A foul on Khouri gave Town an opportunity to keep the ball as far away from their goal as possible but the pressure was not off for long as the home side poured forward in a desperate attempt to salvage extra time.
But they were not able to do it as the Mariners held on to record a famous win and ensure an incredible FA Cup story will have at least one more chapter.
Before that, Town are back in league action on Saturday, when they travel to Carlisle United.